This is the 9th book in Pierce’s Circleverse sequence (in book time) set between the Circle Opens quartet and the books Will of The Empress and Melting Stones. Because of this a lot of major plot points are already known for those reading in publication order.
Briar is travelling with his student Every and teacher Rosethorn through distant lands. They have made more friends in the temples they visit and the three of them are very close, with Rosethorn quietly taking a mothering responsibility for the two young people,
As the title suggests, the three end up getting caught in a war, using their ambient magic, to assist in the defence of Gyongxe , a mountain country, against the Yanxing Emperor. His a David and Goliath war, but Gyongxe has a few tricks.
I like the Circleverse because although there are religious orders for the most part those gods worshipped have little supporting evidence. This is a strong contrast to Tortall where many of the protagonists are ‘God-touched’. Because of this I’m not sure I like how ‘alive’ the gods are in this book.
in Gyongxe or the ‘excuse’ for why this wasn’t already known because people who leave the high mountains forget the living supernatural beings. Or why they let so many people be slaughtered before they interfered to protect the country.
It also makes it harder to see how Briar ‘gave up Envy when they reached Winding Circle. Although she was still with Rosethorn, he considered her his responsibility so much in this book, reading the next one’s where she is still in need of a teacher and he has left doesn’t feel right,
But this is all nit-picking, and by my level of involvement with the characters I know I still love these books,
Thanks also to Anna C for a loan of her ARC (and the rest of the Mark Reads Tortall community: I love the trust and good faith which allowed that to be passed around) giving me time to have all these thoughts before my hardback copy arrived.